Rebecca Rego and the Trainmen hail from Kankakee, Ill. The band is comprised of four members: front-woman Rebecca Rego, guitarist Cory Ponton, upright bassist and mandolin player Eric Fitts, and drummer Matt Yeates. Following the 2014 spring release of their debut album Tolono, Rebecca Rego and The Trainmen have been going strong. With several upcoming tours and new songs to be released, 2015 will undoubtedly be a busy year for the band. Prior to their show this Friday night at Mike N Molly’s, we talked with Rego to learn a little bit more about her, her band, and what future projects they have in store.
Ghost Track: How and when did you guys first get together as a band?
Rebecca Rego: We first started playing together about three years ago. All four of us met in Kankakee, and that’s where the majority of the band is from. We met through mutual friends and organically got together and started playing and touring together.
GT: Do you write and record all of your own music? If so, how long have you been singing and songwriting for?
RR: Yes, it’s all original music. I’m the principle songwriter. The guys do all their own instrumentation. We just get together and organically make our music into what it is. I started playing probably when I was around 20, so about 12 years ago in college. I moved to Chicago after I graduated college in 2007, and that’s when I really started doing a lot more with music. I had a different band then and recorded a few records with them, and then met my new band members and put out a record just last year.
GT: Who do you cite as major influences and inspirations for your music?
RR: I think that as a band, a lot of our influences are Americana bands. Singers like Ryan Adams, and Lydia Loveless. I’m a huge fan of the Jason Isbell and the classics like Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan, in terms of personal influences.
GT: How would you describe your sound, and what ideals and concepts do you tend to incorporate into your music?
RR: I think our sound is pretty classic “singer-songwriter.” The band is very Americana. On our record we have banjos, fiddles, things like that. Our new songs are getting a little more rock and moodier, and we’re working on a lot of new material. A lot of things on the older record were kind of based on stories and things about the baby boomer generation that I had heard. The newer material is more about the band and I as a whole, and the things we have gone through together during the last three years. The ups-and-downs of trying to keep a band together for the past three years, and the different changes we have been going through individually. Looking back at the songs, they really are about us as a group.
GT: What prompted you and your band to make the decision to move to the Champaign-Urbana area?
RR: After we made our record Tolono, my husband and I were looking for a new place to live, and we were also doing a lot of touring. After we put out the record we really started to like the scene, realized we could tour out of here easily, and the cost of living was much cheaper. It just seemed like the best situation to help sustain ourselves as a full time working band. It was probably the best decision. We have been able to save a bunch of money and keep going and do this band thing full-time.
GT: What are your thoughts on the Champaign music scene, and do you have any other favorite Champaign local bands?
RR: Definitely. We The Animals are friends of ours, the famous band here Elsinore, and our drummer is also in another band called Tiger Beat, and they’re great.
GT: What impact has moving to Champaign had on your music and the success of the band as a whole?
RR: It has allowed us a lot more freedom financially to grow in that way. It’s been easy to build here and get known around town. We’ve gotten a lot of well-paying gigs and have been able to save money and do things to help promote and grow our band. A lot of major markets, more practice spaces, opportunities to tour out of Champaign have also resulted from our move. It has also been easy to find other musicians to come play and perform with us, and in Chicago that creativity didn’t really mix as much. Not to say that you couldn’t find any there, it just has been much easier in Champaign.
GT: Just in 2014 you released your debut album Tolono, what did it mean for you to get that album out there and have you been working on any new projects since then?
RR: We were really happy with our record. We did that record live in about three days, and had a lot of musicians come play with us. We’re super happy with the results because it really does represent what we sound like as a band. That was a great process. We’re working towards a new record in 2016, and have about seven new songs and others currently in the process. In 2016, we plan on getting back in the studio and doing these songs Not sure how we will attack that in the studio yet, but definitely have a new project in the works.
GT: What would you say has been your most memorable show or performance so far?
RR: We have so many. I feel like we are so lucky because we play some pretty amazing shows. This past year we played at Schubas and headlined there. We had a few horn players play with us, debuted a bunch of our songs, and a lot of good friends and new fans come out, so it was really great. Schubas is one of our favorite places to play, so it was kind of like a perfect storm.
GT: So what’s next for Rebecca Rego and the Trainmen? What specifically are you looking forward too in this upcoming year in terms of your music and the future of your band?
RR: I really am looking forward to this June, we have a ton of shows. We are playing about 15-20 shows just in June. We’re going on tour in Northern Michigan and are headed out east for about a week, playing in Philly and New York City. We are also playing some cool festivals as well, and just have a bunch of exciting things happening.
Check out Rebecca Rego and the Trainmen at this Friday night at Mike N Molly’s with Daniel and the Lion, Waterfowl, and Kenna Mae. The show is $7 and starts at 8 p.m.